It’s neither a secret nor a surprise that Triple H and Dave Bautista have a ton of respect for one another, enjoy working together, and are all around good friends. Still, for a show called Rivals, all the back-patting and sincerity in this episode is enough to make you pine for the old WWE “documentaries” when kayfabe was king.
The roundtable of experts for this week is the Freddie Prinze, Jr., JBL, Bayley, Kevin Nash, and Natalya edition. As has been the case more often lately, they’re not actually given much screen time to share their thoughts throughout the show. Instead, we cut early on to an interview with Kane (the subject of the Biography episode immediately preceding this show), who in 2001 had worked with Batista in Ohio Valley Wrestling. Kane recalls the young Animal as unpolished and stiff, which was admittedly to be expected at the time.
A year later, Batista arrives in the WWE as D-Von’s enforcer, although Dave didn’t like the suit, the case he carried around — none of it. In an effort to capitalize on some young talent, Triple H aligns himself first with Ric Flair, and then with Batista and an even younger Randy Orton to form Evolution. Batista remembers that since Orton was getting a little more individual screen time, he had lots of opportunities to pick the brains of Flair and Triple H, whichi prompts Kevin Owens to say he would have killed to have an opportunity like that.
After Orton’s initial solo success (and subsequent expulsion from Evolution), it was Batista’s turn as he wins the Royal Rumble — cleanly, according to the recap, as they skip right past his accidental elimination and Vince McMahon’s super-quad-tearing debacle. The show reviews Batista’s decision to go after Triple H’s World Heavyweight Championship instead of JBL’s WWE Championship — emerging victorious and essentially ending Evolution once and for all.
Batista talks about how he and Hunter watched tons of big main event matches, especially focusing on Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior’s face off at WrestleMania VI, in an effort to create a similarly epic feel. Noting how you can tell just by watching those old fights how big the match really was, Batista then also says that you can’t really fell the energy of the WrestleMania 21 match through the video, and unless you were there you wouldn’t know how big it felt. Sounds like a trip to spin city.
As the feud between Triple H and Batista continues, essentially beginning at WrestleMania whereas many feuds end there, it’s amusing to see their bloody Hell in a Cell match recaps presented in full colour on A&E, who seemingly aren’t beholden to the WWE rule of going black and white so the red doesn’t stand out. After Batista beats Triple H for the third time in a row, the rivalry is all but finished. Batista credits Triple H with single-handedly making him a star after putting him over again and again, and now Dave is a main event guy.
Except that doesn’t last as long as one might have thought. With an aside suggesting that Batista was getting tired of the WWE grind, he begins to dabble in acting (actually, going all the way back to a gig on TV’s Smallville in 2006). Once Guardians of the Galaxy came out in 2014, however, Batista was gone and Dave Bautista was a bonafide movie star.
The wrestling itch is one that’s hard to get rid of, though, and Batista did return for a couple more runs. Well, in the case of this episode’s rosy look back at history: one more run. Completely skipping his return in 2014 when he was booed lustily simply for not being Daniel Bryan, we move on to 2018 and a celebration of Evolution on the 1000th episode of SmackDown. During this celebration, Batista challenges Triple H to a fight, demanding: “Give me what I want,” which Seth Rollins admits to often using as a gif in text responses.
Despite the odd set-up of the man who has won every encounter demanding a match from the man who has lost them all, the wheels are fully set in motion for a WrestleMania encounter between them in 2019. Kevin Owens chimes in that wrestlers, as a general rule, are obsessed with things coming around full circle, and both Triple H and Batista agree that their final confrontation was the best way to bring their story to a close.
Such congeniality and graciousness! In truth, even during the height of their rivalry, it never really felt like these two despised one another as, say, Triple H and Randy Orton managed to pull off. With Batista and Triple H it was more like uber-competitiveness with an underlying mutual respect, and that’s exactly how this episode of Rivals plays out, too.
- Slam Wrestling’s Triple H story archive
- Slam Wrestling’s Batista story archive
- Slam Wrestling’s WWE on A&E review archive